Profiles in Comedy: Whitmer Thomas
Whitmer Thomas is trying not to shit the bed on his way to comedy stardom.
“Growing up in the South, you kind of have to over-romanticize everything all the time,” says comedian and Alabama native Whitmer Thomas in one of his sets. Standing on his Los Angeles girlfriend’s balcony, Whitmer tells her, “I’m looking at those stars right now and thinking to myself, well, I don’t even need the stars because I’ve got all the stars in the world right here in your eyes.”
“Oh,” his girlfriend replies in a thick SoCal dude-brogue. “Gnarly.”
Whitmer grew up hiding under his hide-a-bed, playing in bands, and terrorizing security guards in Gulf Shores, Alabama, a small beach town on the Gulf of Mexico. He moved to Los Angeles in 2006 to become an actor, but after a few parts and “a lot of maddening acting classes with dudes in deep Vs and floppy, barely placed beanies,” he decided to start the comedy group PowerViolence, named ironically after the genre of hardcore punk he loved as a teen, with his long-time friend Clay Tatum and a “funny square-shaped man” named Budd Diaz. PowerViolence videos, which also feature Jeramy Ritchie, show the tight group of friends doing things you probably miss doing with your own friends, like skateboarding, fishing, and having sleepovers—though hopefully your sleepovers went better than Whitmer’s.
The crew also stars in the FXX ADHD series Stone Quackers, which concluded its first season in July. On the show, Whitmer and friends voice cartoon ducks who get into increasingly bizarre, beautifully animated adventures on Cheeseburger Island. Also featuring Heather Lawless as housemate Dottie and John C. Reilly as soft-spoken Officer Barry, Stone Quackers is loosely based on Whitmer’s years in Gulf Shores.
“Clay and I were obsessed with Jackass,” Whitmer says, “and would just run around the island we grew up on ruining city property, messing with security guards and people’s vacations. The frozen head/fruit episode of Stone Quackers is based on the time our friend Joe snuck onto the roof of a condo and threw a TV off of it. He didn’t know that TVs explode when they break, and he put a lot of people’s lives in danger. It was hilarious.”
Though his group obviously has a lot of fun together, Whitmer also enjoys having the stage to himself, bringing intimate anecdotes to life with his gift for voices. One of the “New Faces of Comedy” at last year’s Just For Laughs festival, Whitmer discovered his talent for stand-up while riffing between videos during PowerViolence’s live shows.
“As soon as I committed to being a stand-up and doing it every night, it became all I thought about,” he says. “Nothing compares to stand-up. It’s instant gratification. Also, there’s a vulnerability that I like about stand-up that I don’t quite get from anything else.” This vulnerability is clear in his sets, which include tales about his childhood plan to avoid being murdered and the time his girlfriend mistook his penis for someone else’s. He also shares his story of being briefly abducted as a child by his first big fan. It’s as funny as it is terrifying.
Whitmer and crew are currently developing another television show and “writing a movie about a hurricane,” but they can be found every third Sunday at The Satellite in LA, hosting PowerViolence Live with guests like Chelsea Peretti, Anthony Jeselnik, and angry teens from East LA who were expecting a band. For those outside LA, you can check out Whitmer Thomas on YouTube and Twitter. All 12 episodes of Stone Quackers are currently streaming for free on Hulu.